Government should get out of local brewers’ way, says provincial Green Party

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By Mark Brownlee, Ottawa Citizen.
Read original article at Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The provincial government is blocking the road for brewers in the Ottawa area, and the deputy leader of the provincial Green Party says it’s high time it moved.

Kevin O’Donnell, an Ottawa community activist and a candidate for the party in the last election, believes provincial regulations add unnecessary red tape for small brewers. He wants to eliminate the rules that make it difficult for them to cooperate on distributing their products to area bars and restaurants.

Standing at the entrance to an event for local brewers held Saturday west of downtown Ottawa, he pointed to a black-and-white van for local brewery Hogs Back as an example of what he believes is the problem.

O’Donnell said that, as it stands now, brewers can only transport their product if they’re using their own vehicle and it’s moving beer directly from where the beer’s brewed. That means a local brewer delivering beer to another Ontario city returns empty after it drops off its product.

“Why can’t that truck come back full of beer from that other market into Ottawa?” said O’Donnell. “That’s a win-win for everybody.”

O’Donnell made the comments at the Brewery Market, an inaugural event held Saturday on West Wellington Street for beer drinkers to sample locally-brewed beer. About 100 beer drinkers had filled the parking lot at which it was being held by about 1 p.m.

Loosening the rules would also make it possible for local brewers to pool their resources and create a service that delivers for all of them. This would, he believes, save time and money if done properly.

Section 15 of the province’s Liquor Licence Act says the holder of a licence to deliver beer can do so if they purchase it from a government-owned entity such as the LCBO. They can also move their product through The Beer Store — a company owned by bigger brewers such as Molson — but that is too expensive for many of them.

Bars and restaurants are an important part of the market for many of the local brewers who were on Saturday hand pouring plastic cups of their product.

The Broadhead Brewing Company does about 50 per cent of its sales with bars and restaurants, said the company’s brewer John Buist. He packs deliveries to more than 10 bars and restaurants inside his family’s Chevy Cobalt, including in the baby seat.

Broadhead isn’t yet in the LCBO or The Beer Store after about a year of business, meaning the only other place customers can buy its product is at its brewery southwest of Ottawa.

Bar and restaurant sales are particularly big for breweries that are just getting going, said Buist.

“You get exposed to beer drinkers that may not venture out to the brewery itself to sample you,” he said, on a quick break from pouring cups of beer for customers. “It gives you a chance to expose yourself to a broader audience throughout the entire City of Ottawa.”

It’s also easier to deliver the beer in full kegs than the individual bottles that the LCBO and The Beer Store require, he said.

He’s not sure if it would be worthwhile for the company to be part of the delivery service that O’Donnell would like to see made possible, but would look at it if it meant reducing costs.